Board of Supervisors
Minutes of January 28, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on January 28, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor, and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that the proclamation honoring Eagle Scout Matt Tentilucci will be read after public comment.
At the request of the applicant the Stockland sketch plan has been withdrawn.
Public Comment: Mr. Jirele said that he understood that many in attendance wished to comment on the proposed redevelopment of the Acme site. After meeting with Mr. Jirele and Mr. Schenkman, McGrath Builders has withdrawn the plan that had been presented at the last meeting. He asked that the officials from Newtown Borough be permitted to speak first.
Mike Sellers, member of Newtown Borough Council, said that the Borough Council has discussed the Acme site on numerous occasions and has closely watched the most recent plans presented. Of particular concern to the Borough are the height and size of the presented structure and the increase in traffic it might cause in both the Township and Borough. He noted that throughout the area, most residents do not know where to Borough ends and Township begins. He thanked the Board of Supervisors for welcoming comment from the Borough and for their careful scrutiny of proposed projects on Sycamore Street.
Dennis O’Brien, Mayor of Newtown Borough, said that while Borough residents are very eager to see the Acme site developed, they have concerns about the size, height, traffic and architectural style of the plan that had been proposed.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board would keep the Borough informed throughout the planning process as this site is developed.
Tara Goodwin of Newtown Borough submitted a petition signed by Borough residents opposing the condominium use and height of the building that had been proposed.
Gerard O’Malley, member of Newtown Borough Council, said that he is eager to work with the Township on the redevelopment of Sycamore Street. He thanked the Board for forming a traffic committee to address their mutual concerns with traffic in the business district.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Township is seeking interested volunteers to serve on this joint traffic committee and asked residents to contact the Township Manager if they wish to be appointed.
Paul Salvatore of Newtown Borough said that there had been a recent joint meeting of the Borough Council, Township Board of Supervisors and the Newtown Corporation to discuss common interests. He is supportive of the traffic committee and while realizing that the Acme site must be developed, he would like to see the Borough and Township work together on this.
Ann Hendrickson of Newtown Borough said that she is concerned about the height, size and traffic with the proposed plan. She is also concerned with the speed of vehicles on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Jirele said that speed would be addressed by the newly formed traffic committee.
Marie Hutchinson of Newtown Borough expressed concern about the plans that had been proposed as the use and size would affect the atmosphere of the Borough. She is glad to see that the two municipalities will work together on the redevelopment of the site.
Resident Matt Benchener said that he is eager to see the Acme site redeveloped, as it has remained an eyesore too long. He expressed some concern about the proposed architectural style for a building in the historic district and about setting a precedent for the future redevelopment of sites along Sycamore Street.
Resident Harriet Beckert, a member of the Township HARB, but not speaking on behalf of HARB, said that the Acme site is not in the historic district. She is eager to see the site developed, but has concerns about a proposal that would overshadow the Newtown Presbyterian Church, the most historically significant building in Newtown.
Resident Karen Katz said that she is glad that the plan was pulled. She said that a meeting was held on Saturday to discuss the plans. Thirty people, Township and Borough residents, attended. She has compiled the comments made and will provide copies to the Board. The overriding themes of the comments are size, height, architectural style, traffic and pedestrian access. There was also some concern about a precedent being set for future redevelopment along Sycamore Street.
Christine Edmunds of Newtown Borough said that many Borough residents have held back from commenting on the redevelopment because they are eager to see the site redeveloped. She said that residents are eager to work with McGrath on a plan that works within the existing ordinances, especially the height ordinance.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown said that he is glad that the plan has been pulled. He is concerned that the Jointure’s ordinances be upheld, as the area is becoming overdeveloped as tracts are rezoned for overdevelopment. He noted the developments of Toll Brothers on the Roberts and Frost Watson tracts as examples. He is concerned about the appearance of the building that had been proposed, as it would have affected the “feel” of the downtown area.
Resident Jen Dix said that she agrees with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Sheppard, however noted that the Roberts tract had been developed within the residential zoning, not with a zoning change.
Mr. Jirele said that the Roberts property had been zoned as residential in 1997, not in connection with the current development on the site.
Resident Tom Salvatore said that he is concerned that the existing zoning is not being upheld. He has concerns about the proposed condominium use and the height. He also expressed concern that the Supervisors appear to be working with the developer to make the “dollars match.” He did not think the Supervisors should be involved in that; the owner of the property knew the existing zoning at the time of purchase. He is glad that the plan has been withdrawn.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick said that she is concerned that the Township maintain its heritage. She hopes that the current zoning will be upheld; it is the developer’s responsibility to work within the existing zoning. She said that she had recently been appointed to the Township EAC and at its meeting on Monday, one of the members, a scientist, had commented on possible toxicity on the site and questioned whether the site would be responsibly cleaned of toxins when being redeveloped. She also expressed some concern about residential use at the site, which is very close to a cell tower. She urged the Board to work with the developer to develop the site in a sustainable manner, using green construction methods.
Mr. Gallagher said that it is the Board’s intention to lead by example, and will be seeking LEEDS Sliver certification for the municipal expansion. The Board is also investigating the possibility of using wind or other alternative energy sources for the new buildings.
Mr. Jirele noted that the McGrath plan had included many “green” alternatives, including a green roof.
Resident Mick Petrucci, President of Newtown Business and Professional Association, announced the publication of an 84 page Community Guide and invited the Township to make contributions of content. The deadline is February 10, 2009. The NBPA represents 250 businesses in or serving Newtown.
Mark Craig, Newtown Borough Council President, said that he appreciates the Township’s cooperation with the Borough on the Acme site as this location will greatly impact the Borough. The further development of Sycamore Street will intensify traffic and parking concerns.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he is opposed to zoning changes for additional height at the Acme site and would like assurances that the Board will not support large variances as it had with the prior owner of the site.
Mr. Jirele said that each plan stands on its own merit. There have been many changes along Sycamore Street and some variances would be needed to accommodate the plans to meet the vision planned for the street.
Joseph McKiernan, architect and president of HARB said that five years ago he had developed a few different schemes for the Acme site but none proved financially feasible. There will need to be some compromise to develop the site. He pointed to the recent redevelopment of Collingswood, New Jersey and as example of redevelopment taking advantage of underground parking and mixed uses in the commercial district.
Mr. Jirele reminded residents that some uses that the Township might not want at the site would fit the current zoning.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board and residents had previously expressed concern about the size, height and traffic problems with the plans but this evening is the first time he has heard concerns about the proposed architecture. He asked if Mr. McKiernan found the architecture proposed incongruous with the rest of the street.
Mr. McKiernan said that he thought the design needed some tweaking. He said that he does support the condominium use. An invested residential presence brings round the clock vitality and safety to the Street. He agreed to help give the Board some guidance on architectural concerns.Resident Richard Thompson expressed some concern that the plans would overdevelop Newtown. He said that there have been some comparisons with Princeton which has become very congested in recent years.
Minutes, Bills Lists, and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes the regular meeting of January 14, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills Lists: Mr. Gallagher noted that the bills list includes a $75 payment to the Township for a seminar that he attended.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $277,899.43. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro commented on the cell phone bill and asked whether the Manager has been able to make any reductions in cell phone use.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he is working on reducing the number of cell phones being used. Once a new, reduced, number is established he will investigate carriers for a better price. He will provide information to the Board within a month,
Mr. Sensibaugh questioned the $33,000 expense for playground equipment and asked whether this had come from the Woll tract fund or if the expenditure would qualify for County open space reimbursement for improvements to Township parklands.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Woll fund was not used; $10,000 of the money came from a grant.
Mr.Czajkowski said that the playground is a replacement for damaged equipment, not a park improvement. He reviewed the Woll fund, noting that the balance is currently at about $2.2 million, and $2.6 million is anticipated. Not all available capital funds were transferred to the Woll fund.
The motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Gallagher abstaining.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $187,384.67. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Proclamation Honoring Eagle Scout Matthew Joseph Tentilucci: On behalf of the Board and residents, Mr. Jirele presented a proclamation to Matthew Tentilucci honoring him on his earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
Mr. Tentilucci thanked the Board. He said that he worked with his Troup 29 on a project in Newtown Borough’s Linton Park, building a seating wall area. The project, in addition to planning and building the wall, included fundraising for materials. He and his family and Troup members worked about 50 hours on the project. He shared photographs of the finished project with the Board. He noted that he had joined scouting as a Tiger Scout twelve years ago and has earned 71 merit badges.
Mr. Jirele commended Mr. Tentilucci on his efforts and his contributions to his community.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele reported that a joint meeting of the Borough, Township and Newtown Corporation was held to review Newtown Corporation’s accomplishments in 2008 and its plans for 2009, as well as to discuss items of mutual interest and concern to the Borough and Township.
Board Members: Dr. Ciervo thanked those who came to the meeting to express concern about the Acme plans. He said that there had been some discussion of the proposed height of the project and for comparison sake he noted that the hotel under construction in the Business Commons will be 62 feet high and the LSAC building is 35 feet tall. He said that he has visited Collingswood, New Jersey on numerous occasions and does not agree with any comparisons. Newtown is not in need of redevelopment in the same way that Collingswood is. While he agrees that some compromise might be necessary, the Acme Visioning Committee has indicated that a “minor” height variance might be necessary; what had been proposed was not minor.
Mr. Gallagher reported that he had attended a seminar with Mr. Czajkowski on managing fire companies. He also reported that the Financial Planning Committee will be outlining its 2009 goals shortly. He is also researching Doylestown Borough’s efforts to “go paperless” to seek some guidance in reducing the amount of paper used in Newtown Township.
Mr. Calabro announced that Mr. Schenkman will be lecturing on Thursday evening, January 29 in Newtown Borough on his experiences as part of an interfaith delegation to Israel on peace in the Middle East.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its January 20, 2009 meeting the Planning commission elected him to serve again as Chairman, Jim Ott as Vice Chairman and Peggy Driscoll as Secretary/Treasurer.
The Commission reviewed a Zoning Hearing Board application for Lockheed Martin for variances for relief for a height of 60 feet where 50 feet is the maximum and setback of 133.54 feet where 150 feet is required. The Commission members agreed that they wish to support this request as there is already a 60 foot building on the property an the additional height and setback are necessary for the work to be done in the addition. This addition will bring jobs and tax revenues to Newtown Township. A few members preferred to pass the application to the Board without comment, acknowledging that the perceived hardship is self-imposed.
The Commission briefly discussed matters that will be of concern in the Jointure in the coming year, including ordinances to address alternative energy such as windmills, solar panels and wood burning stoves, an ordinance to address historic districts and preservation of historic structures. The members also discussed whether existing ordinances cover preservation of historic varieties of trees and plants. A committee will be considering the highway classifications throughout the jointure. Mr. Jirele spoke to the Planning Commission about adding consideration of the future of Sycamore Street to an upcoming agenda. He asked that the Commission consider planning for the long term, being mindful that some properties could be redeveloped in the next few years.
The Township Planner will give a training session for new members prior to the start of a future meeting. Once a date and time are settled, the Board will be notified and invited to attend.
Mr. Jirele said that he feels strongly that input from the Planning Commission and the Township Planner will be needed as the Township considers the future of Sycamore Street, with the possibility that other large parcels could be subject to redevelopment in the next few years. He asked that Planning Commission members attend a work session on February 17, 2009 to continue this discussion.
Mr. Gallagher said that there had been some discussion at the Jointure about the rezoning of certain parcels in the area around Sycamore Street. This proposal had been tabled. He asked that the discussion be reactivated.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that this be postponed until this Board of Supervisors has had an opportunity to review the proposal again.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mr. McKiernan presented an application for in-kind replacement of windows damaged by an accident at Party Girls.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for Party Girls, 46 Cambridge Lane, as outlined in a memo dated January 14, 2009. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Lithos, LP. 10 Friends Lane – Preliminary Plan for Land Development: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant.
Mr. Garton explained that this is a plan for land development to build a 35,700 square foot addition to a 25,020 square foot building, with additional parking and modifications to existing stormwater facilities on a 7.3 acre parcel in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District. Variances have been granted by the Zoning Hearing Board for disturbance of steep slopes, parking and loading berths.
Mr. Murphy introduced Dr. Lukas Makris, owner of Lithos, who also operates United BioSource in the Commons. The plan received a favorable review from the Planning Commission and has subsequently been revised to comply with the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The one outstanding issue for which he is seeking input from the Board is the matter of sidewalks. The building is surrounded on all sides by streets; the property is a small island. It does not connect with any existing sidewalks. He has discussed with Ms. Fountain possibly extending a sidewalk along Walker Lane to connect with an existing sidewalk on Friends Lane. To do this will require a waiver.
The Board discussed this proposal, which would require walkers to cross the street twice.
Mr. Garton said that if permissions were granted, a meets and bounds plan and easement agreement would have to created.
The Board agreed to postpone a decision on placement of sidewalks until this possibility has been investigated further.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant preliminary plan approval to Lithos, LP., for the premises located at 10 Friends Lane, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel NO. 29-10-99-4 prepared by Pickering Corts and Summerson., comprising Sheets 1-12 dated June 30, 2008 and last revised November 2008, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele questioned the proposed use of wet seed mix in the basin.
Ms. Fountain said that the basins would be mown once or twice a year. The system is designed to detain water for up to twenty-four hours and to be emptied within forty-eight hours. Infiltration testing has been done and the applicant can comply.
Mr. Murphy confirmed that the plans conform to DEP regulations.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s questions, Ms. Fountain said that the storm pipe waivers are for two yard pipes connecting to mains. The park and recreation impact fee will be about $46,088.
Mr. Garton reviewed issues with the calculation of traffic impact fees. There are two editions of the traffic manuals, and there are discrepancies in trip generations for buildings less than 50,000 square feet between the two editions. The difference is substantial, and the seventh edition cautions of this discrepancy when dealing with smaller buildings.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Murphy said that he did not know whether a traffic impact fee had been paid for the original building.
Mr. Calabro questioned the waiver for steep slopes.
Ms. Fountain explained that the berm width is being reduced so that it is not in the right-of-way.
The motion passed 5-0.
Lots 54 & 55 Pheasant Run – Final Plan for Land Development: Mr. Garton reviewed the application for final approval for a lot line change and construction of a 26,000 square foot office building with associated parking and stormwater facilities in the LI Light industrial Zoning District. The building will be used for D-1 office use on lot 55. Lot 54 contains a 12,863 square foot office building occupied by PKF Engineering. The lot line change would move 0.4667 acres, containing 25 reserve parking spaces, to lot 55.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant. Mr. Marshall reminded the Board that at preliminary plan review the applicant had requested that, rather than install a sidewalk on the short stub road to the parking lot, the applicant would make a contribution to a sidewalk fund for installation elsewhere in the Business Commons. He also referred to the discrepancy in trip generations for buildings less than 50,000 square feet, noting that using the seventh edition the impact fee would be $189,000, which is what was paid by Tudor Square, a building twice the size of this one.
The Township Traffic Engineer agreed that the calculations were inaccurate for smaller buildings.
Mr. Marshall asked that calculation of the fee be deferred until the signing of the linens.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to treat all applicants consistently and suggested that the Traffic Engineer and Planner provide some insight for the Board on this matter.
Dr. Ciervo asked if there was a standard formula for calculating the number of employees per square foot in the office space.
Mr. Marshall said that this would depend on the use; PKF Engineering on this property is an office use, but there are very few employees in a very large space. He noted that the plan is leaving 30 spaces in green.
Mr. Marshall pointed out that two loading berths are required. The Planning Commission had recommended a loading area at the front of the building at the central entrance. There is an extra parking space near the rear door, and this could also be dedicated as a delivery area.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant final plan approval to Lots 54 & 55 Pheasant Run for a project which envisions a lot line change so as to transfer .4667 acres of land from Tax Parcel 29-10-134 to Tax Parcel 29-10-135. Parcel 29-10-134 which will be reduced in size by the .4667 acres of land is presently improved with a 12,863 square foot building and related facilities. Applicant then proposes to construct on Tax Parcel 29-10-135 a 26,000 square foot office building. The plan which was approved by the Board of Supervisors was prepared by All County, Inc., on behalf of R.K.D. Builders, was dated March 1, 2008 and was last revised September 30, 2008.
The aforementioned approval was subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo asked whether a traffic study had been waived.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant had already been granted this waiver. This is a very busy intersection and there have already been some very recent studies done for other applicants.The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
Resolution for a Joint Traffic Committee: Mr. Garton presented a draft resolution establishing a Joint Traffic Committee with Newtown Borough.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether this resolution had been compared with the resolution establishing the Borough’s committee and whether the committee would be addressing parking concerns.
Mr. Jirele said that the Borough already has a parking committee and this joint committee would only be addressing traffic concerns.
In reviewing the proposed resolution, Mr. Schenkman asked that there be specific reference to the committee’s duty to report to the Board of Supervisors, and Dr. Ciervo asked that the resolution reference locations of mutual concern for both municipalities.
Mr. Garton said that he will redraft the resolution to include Mr. Schenkman’s and Dr. Ciervo’s suggestions and he will compare it to the Borough resolution.
Resolution for Restructuring of Financial Planning Committee: Mr. Garton presented a draft of this proposed resolution. In response to Mr. Gallagher’s comment, Mr. Garton said that a secretary appointed by the Committee would perform duties of the recording secretary if the recording secretary were not in attendance.
Mr. Schenkman asked that under “duties” “fiscal policy and debt service” be added and that the committee be required to provide “oral reports” to the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-7, with additions recommended by Mr. Schenkman. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Application of Lockheed Martin, 100 Campus Drive: The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Mr. Gallagher asked Mr. Garton to research an ordinance or resolution that had required new developments to not use the names “ Newtown” or “Eagle” in their development names or street names. He said that he thought that this had been in effect when Newtown Walk was built.
Mr. Garton said that if this had not been enforced at the time of construction, it could be an issue to residents now living in Newtown Walk. He agreed to research it further and report to the Board.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had asked for an ordinance that would have removed the Melsky tract from the Federal Cemetery Overlay district, but it had not moved forward. He questioned its current status.
Mr. Garton said that the Ordinance is with the Jointure; there are some concerns about it in Upper Makefield. Solicitor John Rice has concerns about losing certain benefits if Melsky is removed.
Mr. Jirele said that there is some ongoing litigation. Our Jointure partners might be waiting for resolution on these cases.
Mr. Jirele reported that the Township, Borough and Newtown Corporation had recently held a joint meeting. Board members have expressed interest in being updated on vacancies in both the Business Commons and the shopping centers. Mr. Jirele suggested that the Board discuss at a work session the content and frequency of reports to the Board from the Newtown Corporation.
Mr. Czajkowski requested and executive session after the meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM.